Independent Shakespeare Co. Kicks Off Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival 2012, 6/28

Independent Shakespeare Co. Kicks Off Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival 2012, 6/28

GRIFFITH PARK FREE SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL 2012, the largest summer theater event in the City of Los Angeles, begins its performances June 28. This year ISC is offering over 40 nights of programming. In addition to the productions, there are nine PLAYERS IN THE PARK/JUGAMOS EN EL PARQUE pre-show workshops on select evenings. These workshops are an interactive, entertaining way for families to learn about the evening's performance. There are also these are lectures on topics related to Shakespeare as well as curtain-raising performances by local musicians and dancers.

The festival will open Thursday night, June 28 with Shakespeare's rarely-produced romance, The Winter's Tale, directed by Sanford Robbins. Alongside that are two of his most popular comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream (opening Thursday, July 5) and The Comedy of Errors (opening Thursday, August 2), both directed by ISC Artistic Director, Melissa Chalsma who will also take the stage as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"This season an audience can expect to be involved in the action in a really direct way. We strive to make connections with our audience that are unexpected and engaging. With every production, we are working to connect not only the actors to the audience, but the audience to each other," Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma notes, "The Festival in the park is a great fit for LA. It's a theater, yes, but it's also a place you can stretch out on a blanket, eat, talk to your neighbor, play Frisbee before the show, tweet about what you thought about Act Three, bring your's this great combination: professional theater in an absolutely informal setting."

The 2011 season boasted record attendance of more than 25,000, making it the largest summer theater event in the City of Los Angeles and the largest Shakespeare Festival in Los Angeles. ISC builds its festival stage at the site of the Old Zoo (near the Carousel), a natural amphitheater conveniently located next to ample parking.

In addition to the productions, there are nine PLAYERS IN THE PARK/JUGAMOS EN EL PARQUE pre-show workshops on select evenings. These workshops are an interactive, entertaining way for families to learn about the evening's performance. Led by ISC Teaching Artists, workshop participants learn about Shakespeare's language, theatrical staging, and what to look for in the play they will be seeing. They also get to speak lines of dialogue from the stage, and have a backstage tour and meet the actors.

In 2011, ISC received a substantial grant from the James Irvine Foundation in order to expand this workshop series to include bilingual families. ISC created study guide materials in Spanish and English as well as a Spanish-language web portal, and now offer the workshops in both Spanish and English. Through these measures and other significant outreach into the Latino community, ISC increased attendance to the Festival by Latinos: in 2012, 19% of the audience identified themselves as Latino.

ISC Acting Company members are some of Los Angeles's most seasoned stage professionals. Their experience ranges from Broadway, London's West End, major US regional theaters, and some of LA's best venues. ISC is also one of the few theaters in Los Angeles performing under a paid contract with Actors' Equity Association. It also offers health and pension benefits to its Union performers, something only a handful of LA theaters do, all of whom have substantially larger budgets.


The Winters Tale (June 28 – July 29) by William Shakespeare

Directed by Sanford Robbins

In Sicilia, all is well. Peace reigns, and the King and Queen are happily expecting a child. But when King Leontes becomes consumed with the thought that his best friend and his wife are betraying him, one misunderstanding spirals into tragedy. Indifferent to the word of the Gods, reason, or natural sentiment, he resigns his wife, son, and unborn child to a dreadful fate.

As the years roll on, however, a very different destiny is evolving on the island of Bohemia. Rustic and wild, it is a place where love prevails and music and humor are rampant. When the two worlds intersect, miracles come to pass.

Shakespeare's great romance challenges our expectations: folding time and genre into a unique work of art that reveals the essential, humane nature of the author.

Scenic design is by Caitlin Lainoff; costumes by Garry Lennon; and lighting by Bosco Flanagan

A Midsummer Night's Dream (July 5 – September 2) by William Shakespeare

Directed by Melissa Chalsma

In a fantastical Athens surrounded by an enchanted wood, the lines between dreaming and waking are deliciously blurred. As the wedding of Duke Theseus to his captured Amazonian bride approaches, a group of tradesmen rehearse a play celebrate the nuptials. In The Shadows alongside them, the King and Queen of the fairies do battle, lovers succumb to magic and to each other, while forest spirits seek to unravel the mysteries of the human heart.

This production of Shakespeare's most intoxicating comedy is staged with athletic abandon and dazzling costumes: perfect for the whole family.

Scenic design is by Caitlin Lainoff; costumes by Garry Lennon; and lighting by Bosco Flanagan

The Comedy of Errors (August 2 – September 1) by William Shakespeare

Directed by Melissa Chalsma

Do you ever feel that something in your life is missing? The Mediterranean Island of Ephesus at the tail end of WWII is a dangerous place. Locked in a battle with neighboring Syracuse, the town is suspicious of strangers. Into this place, two men come to town seeking to find themselves, but inadvertently cut a path of chaos. During the upheaval, love is lost and found, lives are saved, and a community is restored.

A live band and period dancing complete Shakespeare's most compact and fast-paced comedy.

Scenic design is by Caitlin Lainoff; costumes by Katr Bishop; and lighting by Bosco Flanagan

Sanford "Sandy" Robbins (Director of The Winter's Tale) is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Resident Ensemble Players (REP), the professional theatre at the University of Delaware, as well as founder and Director of Training for the University's Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP), which is ranked as one of the top ten theatre training programs in America by U.S. News and World Report. Theatres for which he has directed include the Alley Theatre, Oregon Shakespearean Festival, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Independent Shakespeare Company, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival, and American Players Theatre, as well as multiple productions for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, where he served for several years as a resident director and remains a frequent guest director. Internationally, he has directed the international premieres of Sam Shepard plays for The National Theatres of several foreign countries, including Buried Child for the Moscow Art Theatre Studio and The National Theatre of Cyprus. His production of Shepard's The Tooth of Crime received the Thalia Award for Best Production in Finland, an award won the previous year by Ingmar Bergman. Mr. Robbins also serves professional theatres as a text and verse speaking coach for Shakespeare and other classic plays, most recently for the Alley Theatre's production of Hamlet. He has taught acting, voice, verse speaking, and period style at Carnegie-Mellon University, Los Angeles City College, and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. This past fall, Mr. Robbins directed Lombardi for the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and will direct The Skin of Our Teeth for REP this spring. In 2013 he will direct O Beautiful for the Alley Theatre

Melissa Chalsma (Director, A Midsummer's Night Dream & Comedy of Errors) has directed many ISC productions, including last season's Merry Wives of Windsor and Hamlet. Other ISC directing credits include Othello, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Tempest. She teaches at California State University, Northridge, where she has directed many productions, including the Western premiere of Akio Miyazawa'a HINEMI and Brecht's THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE. As an actress, she has performed in theaters across the country, on Broadway and in the UK, and is often on stage as part of the ISC Acting Company. She is Artistic Director of ISC and married to its co-founder, David Melville.

Caitlin Lainoff (Summer Scenic Design) is an LA based scene and production designer and puppetry artist who received her MFA from CalArts. She has designed for theater, opera, television and film, from LA to Philadelphia. She teaches at CSUN and heads the puppetry program for the Community Arts Partnership. She recently designed the world premiere of IN A DAUGTHER'S EYES at InterAct in Philadelphia as well as Jerry Springer: THE OPERA at the Chance Theatre (winner of the 2011 Ovation Award for best production of a musical in an intimate theater). She designed and directed ZOOPHILIC FOLLIES, a puppet opera which premiered as part of the the REDCAT Now Festival.

"Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival" opens June 28 and runs Thursdays through Sundays at 7 p.m. through September 2. All Performances are FREE! Griffith Park FREE Shakespeare Festival is located in The Old Zoo at Griffith Park (near 4730 Crystal Spring Dr.) GPS Coordinates of the parking area: 34*8.034'N, 118* 17.100'W Visit or call (818) 710-6306 for directions and information.

There is no seating at the site. Please bring a blanket or low-backed chair. It is also very cool when the sun goes down. Dress warmly.

Independent Shakespeare Company (ISC) was founded in 1998. We have been producing accessible, imaginative performances of classical plays since that time. Our first performances were located on the Lower East Side of New York. The stripped down production style of our early productions enabled us to travel easily and we quickly found ourselves touring Europe, ending with an invitation to perform our production Macbeth for four weeks at The King's Head Theatre in London. In 2001 we relocated to Los Angeles and -- with the support of the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department of Cultural Affairs -- founded Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park, in 2004. Because of audience demand, in 2010 we moved to the significantly larger venue at the Old Zoo and re-christened the summer season the Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival.

We have produced 19 fully staged productions over eight summer seasons. The growth in attendance is extraordinary: our first season played to fewer than 1,000 people; by 2011 over 25,000 people came to Griffith Park for 36 nights of free Shakespeare productions. For more information call 818-710-6306 or visit

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